The Rev. Jacob Worley called a diocesan synod “an amazing experience of the Holy Spirit” when he was elected Bishop of Caledonia. He still sees it that way after a majority of bishops in his province rejected his election.
“I still believe that the Holy Spirit moved at the election, as do others who were there,” he told TLC. “And I believe that I am the Lord’s choice to be bishop. It’s clear that the House of Bishops didn’t think so. I’m not sure what the end result will be, where the Holy Spirit is ultimately moving, but I know that the Lord is orchestrating all of this. I’m going to trust him, because what is most important is that he has all the glory.”
A majority of bishops in the Ecclesiastical Province of British Columbia and Yukon rejected Worley’s election, citing his past work on behalf of the Anglican Mission in America.
Worley, an American-born priest, was elected bishop on the eighth ballot April 22 in Prince Rupert. Worley is rector of Bulkley Valley Regional Parish, which includes three congregations in the northern interior of British Columbia.
The synod met to elect the successor to the Rt. Rev. William Anderson, who retired in December after serving as Bishop of Caledonia for 15 years. The diocese stretches across the upper half of British Columbia, and includes Haida Gwaii (the Queen Charlotte Islands). The Anglican Church of Canada is divided into 30 dioceses within four provinces. British Columbia and Yukon is the most westerly province.
The Provincial College’s objection, made public May 15, is grounded in Canon 4 (b) vi, which prohibits a bishop who has, within the past five years, “taught or held anything contrary to the Doctrine or Discipline of the Anglican Church of Canada.”
A press release from the college said the bishops had met several times as a Provincial House of Bishops since the election. The bishops reviewed Worley’s past actions, what he has written directly to the House, and what he said when meeting in person with the Provincial House of Bishops.
“After many open and prayerful conversations, the majority of the House concluded that within the past five years the Rev. Worley has held — and continues to hold — views contrary to the Discipline of the Anglican Church of Canada,” said the Most Rev. John Privett, archbishop and metropolitan for the province. “The view he held and holds is that it is acceptable and permissible for a priest of one church of the Anglican Communion to exercise priestly ministry in the geographical jurisdiction of a second church of the Anglican Communion without the permission of the Ecclesiastical Authority of that second church.”
Worley served as a priest in the Anglican Mission in America under license from the Province of Rwanda in the geographical jurisdiction of the Episcopal Church without permission of the Episcopal Church.
Born in Alabama, Worley grew up in New Mexico and worked first in an environmental consulting firm. He later felt called to the priesthood, and was ordained a priest of the Episcopal Church in 2005.
In 2007, Worley founded a new church in Las Cruces, New Mexico, as a missionary for the Anglican province of Rwanda. (The church would later, under another priest, join the Anglican Church in North America.)
After an interim term in 2013 as rector at St. Martin’s Anglican Church in Fort St. John, B.C., then a year serving in the Church of Ireland, Worley returned with his family to Bulkley Valley.
As outlined in Canon 4 of the province’s constitution and canons, “the decision of the [Provincial] House of Bishops shall be final” in these matters.
The Provincial House included five episcopal members: Larry Robinson (Yukon), Logan McMenamie (British Columbia), Melissa Skelton (New Westminster), John Privett (Kootenay) and Barbara Andrews (Territory of the People, formerly Cariboo). Because Anderson had retired, Caledonia did not have a vote.
In 2013 the Provincial College was required to confirm or deny the election of Melissa Skelton as Bishop of New Westminster. It was “concurred by majority,” meaning that some bishops voted against her.
The Diocese of Caledonia is expected to hold a new electoral synod.
Founded in 1879, Caledonia is part of the Council of the North and depends on the generosity of Anglicans across the country. Two-thirds of the diocesan budget comes from beyond diocesan borders.
There are only ten active priests serving 19 churches and 23 congregations. There are many First Nations in the diocese, including Haida, Nisga’a, Gitxsan, and Sekani.